By Ayo Kehinde in Port Harcourt
... Special Tribute to ex-President Obasanjo, Says Atiku
…We will work with You, Says Saraki on behalf of other aspirants
Front runners in the contest, Saraki, Tambuwal and Atiku before the counting
Former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar on Sunday won the presidential contest of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to represent the opposition party in the 2019 general elections.
He emerged victorious in the keenly contested primary of the party’s elective national convention held at the Adokiye Amasiamaka stadium in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital from Saturday to mid-day on Sunday. He polled 1,532 of the 3618 votes cast by the delegates. As the votes for him exceed the 693 scoed by governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state, the stadium erupted in applause and the candidates immediately started congratulating Abubakar, dressed in sky blue babanriga and a off-white cap emblazoned with Atiku
His closest rival was the incumbent governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, who polled 693, closely followed by President of the Senate who polled 317. Other contestants such as Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso got 158; Governor Dankwabo of Gombe State at 111; former Jigawa governor, Sule Lamido at 96; Senator Ahmed Markafi at 74; ex-Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki at 65; former Sokoto governor Attahiru Bafarawa at 45; former Senate President David Mark at 35, Senator Jonah Jang at 19 and Baba Datti-Ahmed at 5.
Atiku in acceptance speech thanked the delegates and other aspirants for giving him the opportunity to fly the party’s flag in the 2019polls. He thanked ex-President Olusegun Obansanjo ” for making me his Vice-President for which I have immensely benefitted and got the experience which had finally made me what I am today politically”
Speaking on behalf of the other aspirants, Senate President Saraki pledged his loyalty to the party and promised “to work with you (Atiku) even if you don’t call me. We will ensure that we campaign throughout the country to ensure victory for the party in 2019”
Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, Chairman of National Planning Committee of the PDP 2018 Elective National Convention read out the voting process, which started at midnight.
Rules of voting: Reeling out the dos and don’ts of the voting process, he said use of telephones and voting by proxy would be disallowed by delegates in the 10 voting cubicles, with five each to right and left to be approached by delegates from two states at a time armed with ballot paper imprinted with the picture and names of the aspirants.
No two of the 3618 delegates were allowed to approach one cubicle at a time or both would be disqualified. Not too far from the ballot cubicles placed at the center of the stadium in full view of the audience. Voting was done alphabetically, starting with Abia state and ended with Zamfara.
Collation and counting of ballot papers started immediately also in clear view of everybody and the two agents each aspirant was allowed to nominate but watch from a distance to ensure transparency.
All the 12 aspirants were allowed to address the delegates for three minutes. The issues raised centered around security, poverty, polarization of country along ethnic and religious lines, failing educational sector, science and technology development, capital projects to reverse infrastructural deficit, restructuring, inclusive governance and capacity and integrity of leadership. One common pledge by all of them was that they would support whoever emerged victorious as the elected candidate of the party for the 2019 presidential general election.
Atiku’s Bumpy Road to Presidential Candidacy
The journey to clinching a presidential ticket for the 71 year-old former officer of the Nigerian Customs began during the aborted but tortuous transition to democratic rule engineered by the Military Presidency of Ibrahim Babangida. The military regime imposed two party systems to facilitate the democratic transition process. They were the Social Democratic Party, SDP and the National Republican Convention, NRC.
Atiku belonged to the SDP. But within that party was a solid political block, the Patriotic Front, PF, a formidable coalition of the best and strong in Nigerian politics from across the country, coupled together by former Lt Gen. Shehu Yar’Ardua. At the convention of the party in Jos, the late Chief MKO Abiola emerged victorious and needed a strong, astute politician as vice-presidential candidate. The PF put forward Atiku but in the last minute dealings by the party big wigs, the discussion went awry and Babagana Kingibe, MKO’s rival at the convention was picked.
Atiku bided his time, working within the formidable PF, which went on to strengthen its national base with a rainbow coalition of members across political divide in Nigeria.
With the death of Yar’Ardua in 1997 in Abakaliki prison where he was serving a a death sentence to by a military tribunal in 1995, after calling on the Nigerian military government of Gen Sani Abacah to hand over to civilians,
Atiku assumed control of the PF. His leadership of the organization not only broadened his political base, it connected him to many powerful Nigerians such that he emerged the second elected vice-president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), with President Olusegun Obasanjo.
His ambition to get the Presidential ticket forced him to defect to the newly coupled All Progressives Congress, APC when the PDP decided to foist ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on the party in spite of having served six years, his constitutionally allowed four years and two years in completion of the late President Umaru Yar’ Ardua presidency. He wheeled back back to the PDP when it became obvious that the ruling APC would broach no contest with President Muhammdu Buhari as candidate for the 2019 general elections.